Be our guest at Parrish Church of Christ this Sunday. Come see what all this is about:
Be our guest at Parrish Church of Christ this Sunday. Come see what all this is about:
Someone designed these questions to trap members of the Lord’s Church to second guess their allegiance to the church as the Body of Christ. The author of the questions challenges “Campbellite” preachers and elders to not talk around them but answer them directly. These questions are online and I first saw them about 5 years ago. I accepted the challenge a few years ago in sermon form and now submit them here in blog form.
1. According to the history of the “Church of Christ,” God used certain men to “restore” the New Testament Church in the early 1800′s. Where was the true New Testament church before then? Jesus said that the gates of hell would not prevail against His church (Matthew 16:18). What happened to the church and where was the truth it was responsible for preaching before God restored it?
Answer: The Church existed, simply not in a mainstream setting. The Restoration Movement was and is a continuing effort to restore people and groups to the NT Church.
2. If a “Church of Christ” elder refuses to baptize me, will I be lost until I can find one who will? Do I need Jesus AND a Campbellite “preacher” in order to be saved? If I do, then Jesus Christ is not the only Mediator (1 Tim. 2:5) and the Holy Spirit is not the only Administrator (1 Cor. 12:13) of salvation – the “Church of Christ” preacher is necessary to salvation for he is performing a saving act on me when he baptizes me! Is this not blasphemy against Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost?
Answer: No one that I know of teaches that A “Church of Christ” preacher has to do the immersion. The act is of God and involves God and the one being immersed. The person doing the immersing is of little consequence.
3. If the water pipes broke and the baptistry was bone dry, would my salvation have to wait until the plumber showed up? If I were to die before then, would I go to hell? If obedience to water baptism is the means of forgiveness of sins, then I would.
Answer: A bathtub, pool, pond, stream, river, ocean, tank, and anything that can hold water is sufficient this question is “choking on a gnat.”
4. If my past sins are forgiven when I am baptized in water, and it is possible for me to “lose my salvation” and go to hell after being baptized, then wouldn’t my best chance of going to heaven be to drown in the baptistry?!! - before I had a chance to sin so as to be lost again? If I wanted to be absolutely sure of heaven, isn’t that my best opportunity?
Answer: Time and space does not permit a complete answer, but let just say that if one will “walk in the light” he can be certain of salvation — 1 Jn 5:13.
5. If as a Christian I can sin so as to “lose my salvation,” just what sin or sins will place me in such danger? Is it possible to know at what point one has committed such a sin, and become lost again? Please be specific and give clear Bible references.
Answer: Any sin I refuse to let go of (repent of). Mistakes are forgiven, but to die in open rebellion is dangerous.
6. If as a Christian I can fall and “lose my salvation,” is it possible to regain it? If so, how?If God “takes away” my salvation, doesn’t that make Him an “Indian giver”? How could I ever know for sure that I was saved or lost?
Answer: Yes it is possible to “regain” salvation, simply return to God — a prayer of repentance is what Simon the sorcerer had Peter pray. Paul told the Corinthians to welcome the one who had repented that they had rightfully shunned. God continues to offer salvation and wants all to be in heaven with Him, but by allowing us freedom of choice, we can (and some do) choose to leave Him. He is not an Indian giver, we are wishy-washy.
7. After becoming a Christian, are there any sins that will put me beyond the “point of no return” so that I cannot regain salvation? What sin or sins will put me in such jeopardy, so that, after becoming a Christian, I would be doomed to hellwithout any recourse? Please be specific and give me clear Bible references.
Answer: Yes — any sin I openly rebel in. In other words, if I flaunt my sin in God’s face saying in my actions, “I don’t care if God disapproves of my choice, I am going to do it anyway.” This does not include such things as accidental (unintentional) stumbling on my part.
8. If I committed some sin -whether in thought, word, or deed, one minute before a fatal car crash – would I go to hell if I did not have time to repent of it? And, please, don’t just say that it’s up to God without giving me a specific Bible reference.
Answer: No. As long as we are not given to sin (rebelious). God imputes righteousness to us because of our active faith. This question shows a misunderstanding of what the Bible truly teaches.
9. Why does the “Church of Christ” insist that their name is scriptural when it cannot be found anywhere in the Bible? The church is referred to as the “church of God” eight (8) times in the Bible, but never is it called the “church of Christ.” The verse they use is Romans 16:16, but it doesn’t say “church of Christ.” Where does the Bible call the church the “church of Christ”?
Answer: Any name found in the Bible is a Biblical name including church of God. Again this question rings of ignorance of what is taught. Rom 16:16 says churches of Christ in the plural sense, so a single congregation is a church of Christ. If one would prefer the word assembly or congregation is as accurate as “church” so names may vary from location to location.
10. If the “Church of Christ” claims to worship God only as “authorized” by scripture because they sing only (and do not use instrumental music), then where do they get the “authority” to use hymnals, pitchpipes, pews, and indoor baptistries in their worship services? If the answer is that they are “aids to worship,” where does the Bible allow for that? Where is your required authorization? If a pitchpipe can be an “aid to worship” for the song service in the “Church of Christ,” then why can’t a piano be an “aid to worship” for Baptists who may need more help in singing?
Answer: Again this question begs for an argument. The same place we get Authorization for buildings — expediency. An organ, piano, band, etc. are not aids to vocal singing or to furnish ability to accomplish another part of worship as baptistery and pews. I hope we are wrong on the instrumental issue, but I would rather get to heaven and have God say, “You could have had a band!” rather than hear Him say, “I said SING!” A pitchpipe only sounds a beginning note — if you use a piano to sound the opening chord and then it was silent — so the congregation could sing vocally — I would not object. The Bible gives authorization to sing, to immerse, and to assemble for worship. Hymnals let us sing, a pitchpipe sounds a beginning note for on to sing, a pew provides a place to sit (a chair or window seat would do) as we assemble, a baptistery provides a place for immersion, a piano (or orchestra) does not sing.
(Note: I answer the next three LONG questions with one answer.)
11. The “Church of Christ” teaches that a sinner is forgiven of sin when he is baptized in water by a Campbellite elder. Where does the Bible teach that water baptism is required in order to have one’s sins forgiven? Every time the phrase “for the remission of sins” occurs it is speaking of the fact that sins have been forgiven previously! The Bible plainly teaches that the forgiveness of sins is conditioned upon repentance of sin and faith in Christ – never upon water baptism! (Matthew 3:11; Luke 24:47; Acts 3:19; Acts 5:31; Acts 10:43; Acts 20:21; Romans 1:16; Romans 4:5; et.al.) Where does the Bible teach that forgiveness of sin is linked with water baptism? When Christ made the statement in Matthew 26:28, “for the remission of sins,” it had to be because they had been forgiven all through the Old Testament! Christ shed His blood because God forgave repentant and believing sinners for thousands of years before the Son of God came to “take away” sins and to redeem us and pay the sin-debt with His own precious blood. How can one say that “for the remission of sins” means ‘in order to obtain’ in light of the fact that God never uses the phrase in that sense? In the Old Testament God forgave sin on the basis of a blood sacrifice (Heb. 9:22) – the Old Testament saints had their sins remitted (i.e., forgiven) but they were not redeemed until Christ came and shed His blood at Calvary. Their sins were covered (Romans 4:7; Psalm 32:1), but the sinner was not cleared of his guilt (Exodus 34:7) until the Cross (Heb.10:4). Before Calvary, the sins of believers were pardoned, but they were not paid for (i.e., redeemed) until the crucifixion (see Romans 3:25 and Heb. 9:12-15). When Jesus said, “It is finished,” (John 19:30), all sin – past, present and future – was paid for, and the plan of salvation was completed, so that ‘whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins’ (Acts 10:43). In Acts 2:38, the people were baptized because their sins were forgiven (at Calvary when Jesus said, “Father, forgive them,”) and they received the blessing of forgiveness when they repented of their sin of rejecting Christ and accepted Him as their Saviour and Lord. Friend, heaven or hell depends on what you believe about this.
12. If salvation is not by works of righteousness which we have done, and baptism is a work of “righteousness,” then how can water baptism be a part of salvation? (Titus 3:5; Matt. 3:16) In the Bible, we are SAVED BY GRACE, and grace does not involve human effort or merit – grace is grace and work is work! (Just read Ephesians 2:8,9 and Romans 11:6.)
13. The “Church of Christ” teaches that “obeying the Gospel” includes being baptized in water in order to be saved. If this is true, then how is it that the converts of Acts 10 were saved by faith before and without water baptism? The Bible says in Acts 5:32 thatonly those who obey God may receive the Holy Ghost – so what did those in Acts 10 do to obey and receive the Holy Ghost and be saved? In the light of Acts 10:34-48, Acts 11:14-18, and Acts 15:7-11, how can anyone honestly believe that water baptism is necessary to salvation? Simon Peter said their hearts were “purified by faith” (Acts 15:9) and that we are saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ like they were (Acts 15:11); that is, before and without water baptism! We know that unsaved people do not receive or have the Holy Spirit (John 14:17; Romans 8:9). We know that the Holy Spirit is given only to those who have believed on Christ (John 7:39). We know that the Holy Spirit seals the believing sinner the moment he puts his faith and trust in Christ as Savior, before he is ever baptized in water (Ephesians 1:12,13). How does the warped theolgy of Campbellism explain away these clear passages of Scripture without “muddying the waters” of truth and drowning its members in eternal damnation?
Answer 11-13: This is a disagreement over a term. First the Church of Christ does not teach. We try to let the Bible speak and we look to the Bible for answers to questions as individual Christians and independent congregations of God’s people. There is no written standard for the churches of Christ outside the Bible. Compare Acts 3:19 above with Acts 2:38 and you will find they teach the same thing — forgiveness of sin, based on penitent converts. Forgiveness is only through the blood of Christ (Eph 1:7). All spiritual blessings are in Christ (1:3). The gospel is the only means to salvation (Rom 1:16). The gospel that saved the Corinthians and Romans is the same that saves us (1 Cor 15:1-5 / Rom 6:17-18). This Gospel is the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Christ. Paul teaches that the Christians in Rome had obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine — the earlier verses show how they obeyed the DBR — (Rom 6:3-6). Paul says we are children of God by FAITH in Christ Jesus, and that we are in Christ when we put on Christ — we put on Christ when we get in Christ and by FAITH that is when we are baptized INTO Christ (Gal 3:26-27). As a BAPTIST preacher recently told me, “any claim of faith that does not submit to immersion is not faith.” That is my point exactly! Salvation is not by man’s works. God works and His work saves man, all that God asks of us is that we come to Him on Terms — that is not a work. In Scripture baptism is never called a work (faith is – 1 Thes 1:3 and repentance is said to work – 2 Cor 7:10) There is a difference between working to EARN salvation and obeying what God commands. A child does not earn a parent’s love by doing what the parent says; we do not earn salvation by doing what God commands. We obtain it the way He says to obtain salvation. Cornelius and his house received the Spirit, but that does not in that passage or in any references to that event equate salvation. That reception of miraculous manifestation was to confirm to those with Peter and those to whom Peter would report, that God accepted the Gentiles and wanted them to be included. If faith and prayer is all that is needed, why was Peter sent by God? God heard Cornelius and knew he was a believer. Why send Peter if a prayer of faith saved?
What you see on my “second desk” are back issues, or should I say “WAY BACK” issues of The Gospel Advocate. These issues are from 1954 – 1955. One of the issues mentions three baptisms in Gallipolis, Ohio. One of those nameless three is my father. Another issue seems to be a special issue on the topic of The Church. Among the article titles are: Establishment of the Church; The Identity of the Church; How to Enter the Church; Does the Church Save?; How to Live in the Church; Church Autonomy; The Greatness of the Church; The Strength of the Church; and The Weakness of the Church. Authors include: H. Leo Boles, C. R. Nichol, N. B. Hardeman, F. B. Srygley, L. O. Sanderson, B. C. Goodpasture, R. L. Whiteside, John T. Lewis, among others.
One article by C. A. Norred covers the topic, “Building Up Local Congregations.” He gives six factors to build up the local church: 1) Personal Consecration and Individual Activity, 2) Study of the Bible, 3) Giving, 4) Attendance Upon the Meetings of the Church, 5) Prayer, and 6) The Preaching of the Word.
This article foreshadows a promised special issue of The Gospel Advocate for August, 19, 1954. This then forthcoming special issue would discuss “How to Build Up the Church.” I am going to look for a digital copy of this issue because the articles discuss some ideas and ministries that we can still use today. The promised articles I am interested in are:
I think these ideas still work.
A lot of good religious folks are talking about the church, and are rethinking and redesigning the church. This May 1 and 2 the congregation at Sweetwater, TN will host a series of meetings designed to help us “Think About the Church.” If you are close by or are traveling through, please stop in. Below is the advertisement for this series of meetings. Oh, by the way, I am the guest speaker
Michael W. Casey, Saddlebags, City Streets, & Cyberspace; A History of Preaching in the Churches of Christ, (Abilene;ACU Press) 1995. 210 pp.
Michael Casey provides the churches of Christ with an historical volume of a different genre from most other Restoration History texts. One would expect that in a fellowship that focuses much attention on preaching in our worship, there would be multiple volumes discussion the development and style of our gospel preaching.
Casey develops preaching and advises his reader to realize that preaching is a living representation of a living message that will always change and adapt as people change and adapt within their environment. According to Casey’s research, styles of preaching reflect not only the environment of the audience, but to a large extent the culture of the preacher. As evidence of the adaptability of preaching, Casey points the reader to observe the change in Alexander Campbell. He notes that Campbell made observed a change in sermon he preached ten months prior to crossing the Atlantic. Campbell changed his preaching from a stoic recitation / reading to a more extemporaneous style for the American Frontier (p 19-20). Early in the book, Casey warns that preaching, no matter the style or cultural form, must be faithful to the message of the Gospel.
Campbell, even while preaching more extemporaneously, preached from a Baconian (Rationalistic) style. This style grew out of Thomas Reid’s ideas of Common Sense, which states that every rational individual will come tot he correct answer if given the correct facts. American Rationalism an adaptation of Scottish Realism had four principal elements: (1) enthusiasm for natural science, (2) strict empiricism, (3) a love for inductive reasoning, and (4) the celebration of Frances Bacon as the father of inductive science (p 25-26). Out of this rational approach grew the tradition of debates. The assumption of those debating is that if Common Sense is common then fact presented to a reasonable audience will convince them of the Truth.
Casey then gives descriptions of various styles of preaching and gives examples of those using these styles. he describes T. B. Larrimore as an example of a Narrative Preacher. He discusses the influence of N. B. Hardeman and his Tabernacle Sermons on Evangelism and Campaign Preaching. Casey assigns the genre of “Scholarly Tradition” to those who delve into Historical Criticism, specific exegesis, and general application. Many early proponents of this Scholarly Tradition were the professors and leaders at various Christian Colleges and Universities. To Casey, those that preach “Jesus Centered” lessons are Evangelical in tradition.
Casey concludes asking, “What’s next?” In this age of mass communication, we have very little reason to think that preaching will always remain the same. If in the past, preaching evolved as Casey aptly describes, in this age of ever changing technology preaching will adapt, and should as long as preaching remains true to the Gospel message. Casey recommends a shift or “reconnection of the academic discipline of rhetoric with homiletics” (p 199).
Seemingly, Casey blames much failure on the Rational Tradition for weaknesses in the Restoration Movement. He also admits that each “tradition” has its own problems. The emphasis then remains that the message is more important than the method of presentation.
In the intervening decade and a half since publication of Casey’s book technology has impacted preaching. Additional material discussing “PowerPoint Tradition” and even the influence of blogs, Facebook, and Twitter on preaching would be a welcome appendix. I would personally like to see and evaluation of the methods of Paul, Peter, Stephen, and especially Christ. As 21st Century Restorers, we can still learn much from these great men of the past and those that followed them.
Preach the Truth, no matter what!
Admittedly, I feel completely inadequate to publish an answer. But with all the discussion, SPIN, and rhetoric circulating around Kenneth Starr’s acceptance to take over the Presidency of Baylor University and the storyline that he will place membership with the on campus Baptist Church, I felt it was time to cautiously chime in. The answer I will give is mine and not necessarily the answer of every one who holds membership in a congregation claiming to be the Church of Christ
First, allow me to quote from Frank S. Mead, Handbook of Denominations in the United States, 5th Ed, (Nashville:Abingdon Press), 1970. “There is a distinctive plea for unity at the heart of the Churches of Christ — a unity that is Bible based. It is believed here that the Bible is the “beginning place” in and through which God-fearing people can achieve spiritual oneness” (p 85). ”They disclaim being a denomination, but claim to be nondenominational with no headquarters, no governing boards, and no clergy” (p 86). Mead lists numbers of colleges, universities, and lists a few publications in Texas and Tennessee then stresses, “Since all official status in these institutions is lacking, none of them being authorized to speak for the entire church, their conformity in ideas and teachings in all the more remarkable” (p 87). Elsewhere in the article Mead mentions the concept of congregational autonomy with each congregation being governed by her own elders and deacons. (Mead lists, W.E. McClenney, B.W. Stone, and Earl I. West as sources for his information p 238.)
With this article as background let me give MY answer to the title question: “What is the Church of Christ?”
First while consisting of many congregations scattered around the world, the Church of Christ is universally one as she is: 1) the Body of Christ – Eph 1:22-23; 2) the Bride of Christ – Eph 5:21-33; Rev 21:2; 3) the Household of God – 1 Tim 3:15; and 4) the Kingdom of Christ – Col 1:13) among other descriptive terms. Notice that each term is ultimately singular: body, bride, household, and kingdom; thus individual congregations made up of individual Christians are what comprise the universal singular Church of Christ.
I suppose the second point should answer who is a part of this universal Church of Christ? Going back to God’s word we find that those who are in Christ by faith have put on Christ and become part of God’s family through the promised Seed of Abraham (Gal 3:26-29). Here, I think is a particularly sticky issue. In my past I have made too much of an argument about baptism and not enough about faith. Let me be very precise in my wording; each individual that is a part of the house of God is saved by God’s grace through faith (Eph 2:8-10). Without faith man cannot please God (Heb 11:6). However, what is truly faith? Faith is not mere mental acceptance of facts. Faith is trusting obedience. Faith that does not submit to God is not faith. Those that put on Christ by faith in Gal 3:26 were those who were put in Him when by faith submitted to immersion to contact His blood. Paul tells the Romans Christians he was glad they had obeyed from the heart the standard of teaching that saved them (Rom 6:17-18). That standard of teaching that saved them was the same doctrine that Paul taught the Corinthians – (the Gospel – 1 Cor 15:1-5; Rom 1:16). That good news that saved was the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus as Christ. Paul explains the Roman’s faithful obedience to that gospel in Rom 6:3-6. ALL the individuals world-wide who are en christo (in Christ), and ALL the assemblies of those individuals, are the universal Church (Body, Bride, Kingdom, Household) of Christ.
Now as Mead observed, these congregations are autonomous (self-governed). Basically, that means what we do at Parrish may differ in someways from how they do things at Malibu, Baltimore, Nashville, London, Edinburgh, Kiev, or Jasper. We may see some things as acceptable that others do not. Some of the things they accept may not be acceptable here. Sometimes these differences are merely cultural. Sometimes these differences are simple matters of opinion. However, there may be times when we think a Biblical issue is at the center of our differences. When the issue is considered by one or both to be a matter of doctrinal importance, lines of communication should allow for civil discussion. If we come to an impasse, we may choose to limit cooperative fellowship. That should not mean that each think the other is “hell bound and determined.” Such should simply mean we choose to work along side of those we feel are more like us.
Ultimately, God and Christ will judge each congregation (consider the Seven churches of Asia in Revelation 2 & 3 – God judged each individually), and they will judge each individual. Maybe that is what Paul had in mind when he wrote, ” . . . work our your OWN salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12, emphasis; SMc). You and I as individuals will stand before God on our own. We will face judgment as to whether we as an individual were in Christ and lived in sanctification and holiness (1 Thess 4:3-7). Each eldership will give account for the congregation they served (Heb 13:17).
I am a Restorationist. I believe that we must all go back to God’s word for life and godliness. I believe as many before me that we must set aside denominational nomenclature and return to purely Biblical ideas and principles. I believe there is room for division in opinions or expediency. I believe mutual understanding of Biblical doctrines provides unity whereas disagreements in doctrine limit fellowship. I believe that as long as humanity is involved there will be differences that seem insurmountable. I believe we should teach the truth as we understand truth, allowing for folks to disagree, while continuing to hold fast to healthy spiritual teaching (sound doctrine). I believe in the end of time God will sort out who is and who is not His children. I believe I must do my best to follow God and to teach others what I learn. I cannot force them to agree with me, but I must share what I see is God’s plan. To do less would be irresponsible on my part.
Now let the comments flow!
Edward Earnest, one of our shepherds at Parrish Church of Christ recently shared an old pocket sized book with me. The book’s title is simply: Sermon Outlines: Over 150 sermons by A. J. Bachman. McQuiddy Printing, Nashville, TN 1921. The first sermon makes for a good study and reminder, even though it may need a few less points:
Gospel Bees . . .
1. Be Peaceful – Rom 12:18
2. Be Ready – Matt 24:44
3. Be Contented – 1 Tim 6:8
4. Be Steadfast – 1 Cor 15:58
5. Be Faithful – Rev 2:10
6. Be Unmovable – 1 Cor 15:58
7. Be Holy – 1 Pet 1:16
8. Be Reconciled – 2 Cor 5:20
9. Be Strong – Eph 6:10
10. Be Patient – Jas 5:7
11. Be of the Same Mind – Rom 12:16
12. Be Transformed – Rom 12:2
13. Be Baptized – Acts 22:16
14. Be Zealous – Rev 3:19
15. Be Doers – Jas 1:22
16. Be Temperate – Titus 2:2
17. Be Sober – 1 Thess 5:8
18. Be Wise – Matt 10:16
19. Be Worthy – Phil 1:27
20. Be Kind – Eph 4:32
21. Be Long-suffering – 1 Thess 5:14
22. Be Obedient – Titus 3:1
23. Be Gentle – Titus 3:2
24. Be Watchful – 1 Pet 5:8
25. Be Merciful – Lk 6:36
I think I will post this on my mirror, refrigerator, (bind to my hand, put on the doorpost, place as frontlets before my eyes – Deut 6:8,9) so I will remember what I should BE.